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August 8, 2016

Belize: How Our Public Policies Save Lives

Posted: Monday, August 8, 2016. 8:49 am CST.

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By Richard Harrison: Thankfully, no lives have been reported lost in Belize, the country that took the brunt of Hurricane Earl’s 80 mph winds.

Today, it is being reported that Mexico lost 39 lives.

Why is this so?


In Belize, no one should own nor build on the 66 feet of property facing any waterfront…..whether it is a stream, creek, lagoon, river, or sea. While, in many areas, of recent this law is increasingly disregarded….in most areas it is still observed.

Many property owners have cut the riparian forests that this 66 feet law was made to protect….which in turn is what protects the watersheds and helps to keep them healthy and thriving.

This buffer between our surface waters and where people live helps to filter human waste and protects the surface waters…..but it also protects lives and property from flash floods and storm surges from the sea. It serves very valuable dual purpose.

Flash floods along the riverbanks where many people live up close to the water front is a major cause of loss of life in Mexico.

Belize needs to ensure that this law is enforced throughout, without fear or favor.


While there is no law against government granting or selling land with steep slopes for residential purposes….the historical practice is not to give or sell these lands.

Of late, however, and especially with increased squatting by immigrants from Central America whom are used to living on steep slopes due to lack of available lands in their home country….we have seen an increase in persons building on steep slopes in the towns, villages and along the highways, especially the Hummingbird Highway.

Flash floods and landslides in these kinds of residential settings are what caused the most loss of lives in Mexico.

This new and increasing practice needs to be discouraged.


Belize has developed a rather sophisticated emergency management organization…..with a broad cross section of the society directly involved. Government ministries, Belize Red Cross, the Police, Belize Defence Force, Belize Coast Guard, Belize Meteorological Center, B.E.R.T., medical service centers, public transportation companies, fuel supply companies, the public media, the utility companies, the insurance companies, business organizations, schools and shelters, among many others….are directly involved.

The entire population is generally well informed in the preparation and duration of storms.

Now, with social media, pretty much everyone is on high alert and informing each other.

It is not perfect, and much more can be done….especially in the relief side after a storm subsides….with getting appropriate relief to the most needy within reasonable time….from our own resources that should be set aside for this purpose.

Because those areas of Mexico affected are not historically prone to such storms, they are not well prepared with the kind of emergency organization that gives the public enough warning before a storm, and makes preparations for the scale and scope of challenges that arise as a result. They do not all go on high alert as we do.

Belize has done well to develop this relatively sophisticated emergency management organization….and needs to refine it further….especially along the lines of putting aside resources of our own, free of corruption, with which we can deliver rapid relief to the most needy within record time after disasters….instead of running around the world with our palms up every time tragedy strikes.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.



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